Posts Tagged ‘ Videogames ’

Growing Up Gaming – SNES

The Super Nintendo is definitely my favorite system. I enjoyed the NES, but Super Nintendo is where things really took off for me.Similar to the NES, I saved up the money to buy the system myself. I remember purchasing it in Houston, TX when we were visiting family.

snes-mod1-console-set

Buying just the system, I started with Super Mario World and was blown away. Granted, in my last post I did mention Super Mario Bros 3 introduced more new concepts that Super Mario World iterated on, but it did that so darn well. Flying moved from a raccoon tail to a yellow cape, but now able to glide along and even dive bomb with it. The big addition so many, including me, loved was Yoshi. I also really liked the music, which had some nice variety to it.

Super Nintendo also had some great beat ’em up games. While NES had Double Dragon, River City Ransom, and Battletoads, plus TMNT2 and 3, the SNES continued these with Super Double Dragon from Technos, Battletoads & Double Dragon and Battletoads in Battlemaniacs from Rare. The Super Nintendo also brought us Final Fight from Capcom.

Looking back, though, all my favorite SNES beat-em-ups have comic book origins. Of course, the first an foremost that has to be noted is TMNT IV: Turtles in Time from Konami. The game has smooth animations and great music and felt like the original arcade game had finally come to consoles (at the time, I didn’t realize there was a Turtles in Time arcade game). Just like many NES titles, it was a lot of fun with friends. We played the game fully through more than once, each as our favorite turtle.

The next I particularly liked was Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage from Software Creations & Acclaim, which was really hard. Perhaps not the best game (okay, it’s definitely not the best game, even for a beat ’em up), I still liked it. Playing as Spidey or Venom and playing through the story from the comics crossover was a awesome and the first time I felt a game started to capture the feel of being Spider-Man to some extent (previous titles didn’t do it for me). It would have been cool to have more of the characters playable instead of cameos for special attacks, but I still liked the game and there are certainly other comic book games that fared much worse.

Next would be what I feel is one of the best beat-em-ups and one of the best X-Men games for its time, X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse from Capcom. You played as Beast, Cyclops, Gambit, Psylocke, and Wolverine, each with their own stages, with basic beat ’em up levels, but some moves used more Street Fighter style controls to execute. The animations were fluid, the controls were responsive, and the story was fairly well done. Capcom took the gameplay of this game and went forward to be use it in another fun game late in the SNES lifecycle, Marvel Super Heroes in War of the Gems. Wolverine returned for this one, but instead of X-Men, you had Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Hulk.

I also really liked Capcom’s Street Fighter II on the SNES, despite being horrible at it in the arcades. Street Fighter II Turbo and Super Street Fighter II were also favorites to play. I was never particularly good on the console either, but still enjoyed playing the world tour at least. At the time, the big fighting game rivalry was Street Fighter and Midway Games’ Mortal Kombat. I never cared for Mortal Kombat, though. I preferred holding back to block more than having a block button and I thought Mortal Kombat was ridiculous with the blood spatter. A single punch seemed to send a liter of blood flying from your opponent. However, like many, I did find the fatalities ridiculously amusing just because of how over the top they were.

Continuing the exploration into genres I never got into on NES, we come to Nintendo’s new first party IP, Star Fox. I never played any sort of flight simulator or flight combat except perhaps a brief attempt at NES’ Top Gun that failed miserably. I think it’s safe to say Nintendo Power had a lot to do with drawing me into this one. I was 12 years old at the time and still on the tail end of TMNT-mania and had liked the space adventure of Bucky O’Hare (the NES game is an underrated gem – too bad I sold my copy and it skyrocketed in price since), so the Nintendo Power comic presented a good story basis to get excited for the game. I played Star Fox multiple times to explore each path. The Nintendo Power comic turned out to have little connection to the game’s story, but that didn’t matter. I still loved the game.

Just look at those cutting edge graphics that blew our minds:

Still continuing the exploration of genres I hadn’t tried with NES, I also loved another new one from Nintendo: F-Zero, despite never really caring to try racing games. The music went a long way for me and the health of your car being depleted and restored during the races added something fun. The other racing game I liked from Nintendo on SNES would be Super Mario Kart, particularly the four player battle matches. I still don’t think any of the sequels have matched the fun of the original simple balloon busting battle matches.

ff2boxfront

And now we come to the real meat of my love for Super Nintendo. Roleplaying Games. Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy II (really IV) was my first Final Fantasy game and I believe the first roleplaying game I played other than a little of of Quest for Glory on PC. While I agree other entries may be objectively better, I still put this one as my favorite. I was completely engrossed with the story as Cecil gained and lost allies, fought monsters, and went through dungeons from dark knight to becoming a paladin. The combat of controlling the party, each character with their own class of skills and abilities, magic, and Rydia’s summons were all so great. I played through the game twice shortly after one another and was eager for more games like it.

Then it was Final Fantasy III (really VI). My friend recalls I was skeptical of it since it wasn’t a sequel to Cecil’s party. At the time I didn’t realize it was actually the sixth in the series with each being a new story. I quickly warmed up to it, though, and was once again fully immersed in the story. Overall, I do still feel like the cast could have been trimmed back a bit and that story driven games can easily suffer from “here’s a dozen characters…choose four” as you need certain characters in certain places to get more of their backstory or see their personalities come out and their character growth as certain events unfold. Still, I loved Final Fantasy III and never got rid of my original copy, the box, manual, or map.

Opening credits scene is near obligatory when talking about Final Fantasy VI

And finally there’s the winner of most “Best SNES RPG” lists as well as many “favorite SNES game” lists: Chrono Trigger, also from Squaresoft. I loved this game as well. So many great tracks on the soundtrack and a different take on combat from the other RPGs I had played. Chrono Trigger nailed almost everything for me. Characters were interesting, music was great, animations pushed the capabilities of the SNES, especially with facial expressions. Then on top of all that, it turned out to have multiple ways to beat the game for variations on the ending. This is another I’ve kept complete in box all these years.

A few honorable mentions for me with the SNES RPG line up would be ActRaiser from Enix, Breath of Fire from Capcom (but published in the US by Squaresoft), Illusion of Gaia by Quintet and published by Enix & Nintendo, and definitely the Lufia games by Neverland. Squaresoft also really hit a home run for me with Secret of Mana, which has one of my favorite pieces of music on the SNES.

Mega Man took a huge leap from NES to SNES with Mega Man X from Capcom, another favorite of mine. I only played the first, but have since picked up the second, which two of my friends feel is the best in the series. Eventually I’ll play it and someday find a copy of Mega Man X3 as well.

Similarly, I only played the first Donkey Kong Country. I’ve since gotten all three and am also told by friends the second is once again the best banana in the bunch, so someday I’ll have to get through all of them too. Donkey Kong Country was so cool because of how unique and impressive the graphics style was at the time. It was also just a fantastic platformer.

To wrap up this post, though not my favorite game on the system, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past introduced me to the Zelda franchise and is among my top games of all time. The charm of sprite based games holds up to time better than early polygon games.

One last honorable mention would have to be The Lion King from Virgin Interactive. One of my favorite animated Disney films, I got the game and was amazed at how smooth the animations were. I was also amazed, but not pleased, by how hard some of the later levels were. It also had some pretty good music adaptations from the movie that were impressive for the time.

Next I’ll talk about my memorable games from the other side of the console war: Sega.

 

 

Growing Up Gaming – NES

In the last post, I mentioned not being certain about specifics of my gaming roots, but my memories are more clear as we proceed to the arrival of the Nintendo Entertainment System. I didn’t get one at release, but I certainly wanted one.

I was in elementary school and we had a fund raiser selling raffle tickets with the grand prize for who could sell the most being $100. While my parents took me door to door in the neighborhood or out to the local golf course, and my grandparents around their neighborhood, I had to give the sales pitch myself. Ultimately, I did sell the most tickets and got my $100 prize, which I opted to spend on buying myself the Nintendo Entertainment System.

This set me on a path that I grew rather proud of, having bought every console I’ve ever owned through the years myself rather than asking for one from my parents. While they bought me games at birthdays and Christmas, I always bought my own consoles. I think it was a good lesson in responsibility for young me.

I got the Action set with the console, controller, grey zapper, and Super Mario Bros./ Duck Hunt.

nes-console-set

Note: I pronounce it as N-E-S, not “ness” which is just silly.

My first game, of course, was Super Mario Bros., and my father and I started playing it together. Now, my father certainly has never had much interest in video games prior to this, nor since, but at the start of the NES era, we did play together some. In fact, he played enough that I remember him picking me up from school one day with a big grin on his face. When I asked why, he told me he had beaten Super Mario Bros. My father beat Super Mario Bros. before I did. I beat it not long after, and with the Fire Flower’s power, which he hadn’t.

o9pz6

I tried to claim he cheated because I was at school, but I knew the truth…

The other game I got early was also because of my father: Golf. My dad has always been a golfer and I imagine he hoped playing the game together might spur an interest in the actual sport, but the game did no such thing. It wasn’t all that great of a game either, but it still holds a special place in my memory because of that time playing it with him.

maxresdefault1

Mario played the gentleman’s sport of golf.

Now, there are plenty of other games I will be talking about in this post, but only one other with a connection to family for me. I had my tonsils removed when I was young and after surgery, I got The Adventures of Lolo as a get well gift. I seem to recall beating the game, but never played the sequels.

While I didn’t have a lot of familial connections in gaming, I did have friends. All my close friends had gotten an NES and we would play whenever we visited one another’s house. One friend and I played through Bubble Bobble on 2 player together. I played DuckTales at another friend’s house, but never owned it. I borrowed Mega Man 2 from a friend to play through.

DuckTales The Moon Theme may be my favorite NES tune.

And that social aspect, the trading games, led to exploring other games. I got Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers because I liked DuckTales. I got Mega Man 3 because I liked Mega Man 2. I went back to the original Mega Man via rental because I liked Mega Man 2 (but never beat it.. darn rock monster in Wily’s castle).

Rentals. Ah yes, before our town even had a Blockbuster, we had a local family owned rental store. I remember renting Dragon Warrior, which I didn’t care for at the time, Dick Tracy, Robocop, Yo! Noid, and Ninja Gaiden games. My friend and I would play Ikari Warriors for hours each rental. I also remember loving Wolverine on NES after the disappointing offering of Uncanny X-Men. Unfortunately, I owned (and still own the same copy of) Uncanny X-Men and only rented Wolverine, though I’ve rectified that now.

Like almost every young boy in the USA, I was wrapped up in turtlemania, so of course I got the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. I don’t recall how I got it, but I’d be willing to be it was a birthday or Christmas present one year. While many had trouble with the underwater level diffusing bombs, I never had too much trouble and with some practice, I was able to ace that level every time with minimal damage. It was the level afterwards that always got me, with so many places to go and not knowing where the correct path was. I’d waste too much health going to dead ends or in circles and lose lives. Without YouTube and the Internet, the best we had was whatever Nintendo Power had to offer (which I was subscribed to starting with July/August 1989, Volume 7). We watched my friend’s older brother get to Shredder once, but he didn’t manage to beat him.

nintendo-power-mega-man-ii

Some of the covers were pretty amazing.

By the time TMNT 2: The Arcade Game was out, we all knew the arcade game (which I would love to own one day) and though not as good, the NES version was still a blast. We still went over to each other’s houses to play it and we’d replay the full game again and again after beating it.

Another curiosity of the NES era is the movie games. Today, and for a few generations now, it is generally expected that movie tie-in games tend to be fairly lackluster, though there are some exceptions. This wasn’t the case with the NES, possibly due to the more simplistic game designs. Still, the NES had some decent movie tie-in games. The 1989 Batman movie game was a pretty good side scrolling platformer for its time.

I also still love the Who Framed Roger Rabbit game with the ability to drive around in Benny the Cab and outrun the weasels being one of my favorite parts. The game had some puzzle solving, amusing items to employ (exploding cigars and cartoon holes to cause enemies to fall through), collecting pieces of Acme’s will, some joke telling mini games, and a little bit of fisticuffs for combat. I remember spending a lot of time on that game, and a lot of frustration against Judge Doom.

maxresdefault

Seriously, it was a hard fight.

Other movie tie ins I remember being pretty good include the Robocop games, Dick Tracy, and particularly Gremlins 2 was a lot of fun. I think Back to the Future is supposed to be pretty good, though I don’t recall playing it. I also liked both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, despite what anyone else says. Of course, not all were great, like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but the ratio of good to bad movie tie in games is definitely in the system’s favor.

I also played Super Mario Bros. 2 at my friend’s, or borrowed it, yet never owned it. Once again, it spurred me to get Super Mario Bros. 3 and eventually went through every level (though I definitely prefer wise use of warp whistles). The third is definitely my favorite on NES, though Super Mario World on SNES may edge out as my favorite of the series. Still, Super Mario World made polishing touches where Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced so many new things. Flying with the raccoon tail, saved games (correction, this was not on NES’ SMB3), the different suits with different abilities were all impressive and stunning new additions.

super_mario_bros_3_power_ups

In hindsight, I actually missed a lot of great titles that set the standard in their categories and launched both their own franchises as well as imitators since. I only briefly played, or watched friends play, Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link. The same goes for Metroid and Kid Icarus. I never played Kirby either, though a friend of mine had the GameBoy game.

Bomberman.
Metal Gear.
Castlevania.
Even Final Fantasy!

All games I never played as a child and still haven’t played through yet in some cases. I’ve got them in my library now, added to the ever monolithic backlog, but haven’t played through them.

Honorable mentions of other games I did love: Contra, Bucky O’Hare, Tiny Toon Adventures, Little Nemo, Battletoads, Godzilla: Monster of Monsters, Double Dragon, and Shadowgate.

As a bit of a sidenote to the NES, I never really got into hand held games. I never had a GameBoy, but later got a GameBoy Pocket and then GameBoy Color, but I pretty much only got in on the Pokemon craze with Blue and then later Yellow. Otherwise, I didn’t really play GameBoy through its iterations.

pikachu

Back when he was a pudgy Pikachu.

To me, the Nintendo was all about fun. Well designed games with solid gameplay. Often light on plot, they were still a lot of fun. And some did have decent plots within their constraints. But Nintendo, the NES, was also about fun with friends and sharing your experiences and your knowledge with each other.

Playing video games at my friends, trading games to borrow, and talking about how to beat them pulled me deeper into loving video games. They weren’t just for introverted kids (even though to some extent I am an introvert), there was always a social aspect to them, even to single player games.

And though I may have missed some great games, I still had great experiences with the ones I did play. Experiences I hope to share.

In the next entry, I’ll talk about my favorite games from the Super Nintendo, where I fell fully into RPGs.

Growing Up Gaming – Arcade & Atari

I don’t remember all the specifics of years and ages for the milestones of my childhood playing video games. As such, I can’t say with certainty what I played first, but I have some small recollection. I do know as a child, before I owned any system, I played arcades at hte Dairy Queen restaurant in my home town when my grandparents would sometimes take me after school.

1181242138309

I’m fairly sure Ms. Pac-Man was the first game I ever played and it was at that Dairy Queen with their single arcade cabinet, asking for extra quarters whenever I could. It turns out that Ms. Pac-Man and I are closer than I’ve realized in my youth, as her initial release on January 13, 1981 was only 8 days prior to my birth.

The second game I seem to recall playing was Galaga. I didn’t chase high scores, being young enough that such a thing wasn’t important to me if it even truly registered in my mind other than putting your initials in to be saved, but I had fun playing them. To me, that was, and still is, the core focus of video games – to have fun.

I never got an Atari system growing up, either. The Atari 2600 had been out a while, releasing in 1977, and the Atari 5200 released in 1982, right after I was born, but still a while before I was starting my discovery of video games. My friend, however, had an Atari 2600, so I was introduced to home consoles at his house when I’d go over to play.

atari2600a

I remember playing Pac-Man and, despite the graphics being a fairly poor imitation of the arcade, absolutely loved it as well. I didn’t care that it didn’t look as good: it sill played basically the same and was still fun. I guess even in the 80s, you could have a debate over the importance of graphics to the overall experience of a game.

Another game I remember playing frequently with my childhood friend was Joust. For hours we would battle over the lava pits on those birds. Joust still remains one of my favorite games on Atari and I was quite amused to see it recreated in World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion.

I don’t remember too many specifics of playing it, but I do remember I loved Chopper Command on Atari 2600 as well. My friend may have gotten this one later, as I think I vaguely remember playing it while he was playing NES at the same time. Or perhaps we just took turns playing it.

chopper_command

Thrill at the lifelike graphics as you rescue your men from the enemy!

While my introduction to video games, or videogames if we want to get into that debate, was not largely in depth with vast exposure to the arcade scene nor a large library of Atari home console games, it did create the spark to light what would become a wildfire in my life. It’s interesting to me that I was born just before the video game crash of 1983, but games were still out there enough to gain my interest for the two years before Nintendo would release the Nintendo Entertainment System.

In a way, the crash may have contributed to setting the stage for Nintendo’s explosive arrival with their console. Had it not been for Atari consoles, and their games, having prices slashed, many may have never played them. If we hadn’t been exposed to them then, who’s to say we would have been excited when Nintendo came along? Sure, a lot of people never played Atari and still jumped on the Nintendo train, but perhaps some of us, perhaps myself, wouldn’t have.

Yet oddly enough, not once during my childhood was I even aware there was a crash. There was always a couple arcade cabinets in town growing up, either at the Dairy Queen I mentioned or the bowling alley and later a pizza place. One friend or another would still have an Atari 2600, though I don’t recall any of the later Atari systems being in any friend’s home. Then the NES was here before we knew it.

While this little post was rather small, it’s because my introduction to games was small, but in my next post, I’ll start to discuss my memories and favorite games starting with my first console, where I truly got into video games with the Nintendo Entertainment System.